No Certification Manual? Inconceivable to Reader.
It is inconceivable to me that a company can get ISO certification without a quality manual ("What They're Saying About Standards," July 1999). In my experience, even non-ISO certified companies cannot get by without a quality assurance (QA) manual, for no other reason than they need it to pass simple customer audits--unless the company is an ISO consultant. So, next time your ISO/quality consultant comes in, ask him for his QA manual. He may or may not have one.
Applying Quality Beyond Its Historic Roots
I enjoyed reading the August 1999 "New Horizons in Service Quality" issue. Hats off to ASQ for encouraging us to think about how quality can be applied beyond its historic roots! While reading "Total Quality Management in Higher Education" (August 1999, Carl B. Montano and Glenn H. Utter, p. 52) several issues struck me regarding total quality management and education.
The pattern of an increased frequency of responses prior to a deadline discussed in this article is studied in behavioral psychology. The same response curve is generated under most so-called fixed interval schedules of reinforcement (those where a response curve is generated must be made by a specific time in order to receive reinforcement). The fixed interval schedule response pattern is so dramatic and reproducible that it has a special name: behavioral scalloping. Look what happens just before the April 15 tax deadline. In my field, sales and marketing, I see this phenomenon all the time. For example, sales often increase just before a bonus period ends or a price increase begins. It strikes me that this behavior is a result of causes common to all systems of fixed interval reinforcement and not a special cause in the usual sense.
This leads me to conclude that, in certain service applications, the usual statistical process control algorithms may not screen common from special causes as practitioners hope. In my experience, where biological and behavioral variables are involved, linear and exponential control charts are required. The authors find that admission applications to their university exceed the control limits just prior to the start of classes. Is this the result of a special cause or a cause that is built into the admissions process from the start, namely the admissions deadline? What does the chart suggest?
Quality practitioners may need to adjust their thinking caps when human behavior is the independent variable. I congratulate Montano and Utter for providing food for thought in this important area.
New Changes to ISO 9000 Will Have a Large Impact
I read the articles in the July 1999 edition of Quality Progress ("The Future of Standards") and thought you might be interested in the following.
Sometime toward the end of the year 2000, it's expected that the biggest change to the content of ISO 9000 in its history will be launched. Taken at face value, the changes are profound and represent a radical and welcome shift form the earlier standard. If the new requirements are implemented and assessed in depth, there is no question that they will make a considerable impact on the business performance of successful organizations. However, before that's achieved, there will need to be a considerable upgrade in the training of assessors and their clients, though the possibility of this being completed in the available time is doubtful.
The International Standards Organization claims that the changes are being introduced as a consequence of a constitutional requirement for regular review. This is true, but it's not the only reason. It's well known that they had little option if the standard is going to survive.
In the last two years, the ISO 9000 system felt enormous pressure from large procurement bodies to make radical changes. If these changes aren't forthcoming and introduced with some impact, there is more than a risk of returning to the multiple assessment fiasco of the late '70s. At that time almost every procuring organization had its own assessment criteria, and some unfortunate suppliers found themselves assessed by one team or another almost every day. For example, one engineering company in northern England claimed it was assessed more than 80 times in six months!
Already, alternatives to ISO 9000 are appearing at a steady rate. The American "Big Three" auto manufacturers launched their own standard known as QS 9000 in 1994 due to disillusionment with the performance of supplier organizations who were approved to the current version of ISO 9000. There is little doubt that if ISO 9000 doesn't radically change, it will be swamped by the irresistible power of such purchasing organizations.
Which approach to adopt, however, remains the ultimate question. All of the recent upheavals make that point rather evident. Adding to the disorder, the impact of the Motorola- and General Electric-driven Six Sigma concept to the drive by the British government to encourage use of the Business Excellence Model, Investors in People, Charter Mark, CE Mark and so on, all adds up to a confused situation.
Fortunately the new ISO standard, on paper at least, appears to be well thought out. It also has the advantage that it was designed to be compatible with the environmental standard, ISO 14000, and with health and safety requirements. The probability is that a choice of quality strategy for any organization will appear chaotic for the next two to three years. However, an approach containing the good points of all the models will hopefully emerge from the introduction of the new standard.
An article in the September 1999 issue of QP ("Measuring Performance After Meeting Award Criteria," Timothy M. Bergquist and Kenneth D. Ramsing, p. 66) said Wisconsin does not have a quality award program. In fact, Wisconsin does have a state quality award-- The Wisconsin Forward Award. Currently administered by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the second annual award banquet is on November 11, 1999. Call 608-261-4422 or 888-933-9475 for more information.
Notice of Duplicate Publication
The article "Quality You Can Bank On" by Norman D. Kalmin, Linda Myers and Mary Beth Fisk, published in the January 1999 issue of Quality Progress, is virtually identical to the article "ISO 9000 Model Ideally Suited for Quality Plan at Blood Centers" by the same authors, published in the January 1998 issue of Transfusion. It is Quality Progress' policy to accept for publication only original articles that have not appeared in other publications.